Intention Setting to Escape Toxicity You Can't Shake

The Struggle: Toxicity You Just Can’t Shake

A couple of years ago, I encountered one of the greatest challenges that I have ever faced in my life. Without giving away too much, let’s just say that, in some ways, I entered my very own personal, never-ending hell. For the most part, my life is amazing, but there is one aspect that is not likely to go away anytime soon, and it wreaks a special kind of havoc on my soul.

When I think about it, though, we probably all have some element in our life that just makes us cringe, right? There are just certain things that we cannot escape, and they are tumors on our daily lives. They’re so toxic that they can find ways to suck the joy out of the most pure moments. Seriously, these things are leeches - sometimes physically, emotionally, and spiritually!

Because the nature of this struggle is on a personal level, it was something that was evident in my daily life. I was unable to just “leave it” when I walked into work or even when I walked into the gym. I found myself getting distracted in my daily tasks and becoming far less productive than I like. At first, I set goals for myself on what I had to get done. Checklists, reminders, and to-do lists helped me make sure that I was able to prioritize and get stuff done. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, I still found myself drained of some of my joy because I was still hyper-focusing on something that I could not change!

The Solution: Intention Setting

After struggling for so long with this personal hell, I knew something had to give. I could not keep on the way I had without a change. In fact, at first, it seemed impossible. The struggle was SO real that I didn’t think I could find a silver-lining no matter how hard I looked. However, after spending some time doing some research on grace, mindfulness, and peace, I came across the idea of setting intentions.

 When I stumbled across an Instagram post about setting intentions, a light-bulb went off in my head. I cannot change this thing, but I can grow in spite of it and maybe even because of it. How? Each day, I create a list of what I must get done, but in addition to that, I come up with ONE goal for HOW I am going to meet each day’s challenges. It took a few days of journaling and tracking my feelings when faced with this struggle.

For example, I found myself feeling hopeless, frustrated, angry, and sometimes empty after dealing with certain things, so I decided to tackle those feelings one at a time. If I knew that I would be faced with frustrating situations one day, I set an intention to handle those things with grace. I had to embrace the fact that I cannot change everything, and that what I can control are my reactions. Instead of letting those emotions create a stir or disrupt, I took a few breaths and would repeat my intention for the day. From there, I would allow myself to search for the silver-lining in the situation, no matter how small, and focus on that piece of productive understanding or compassion, whether towards myself or others. From there, the grace grew easier. I found myself letting go of the toxic feelings that led, so quickly, to the frustration. After a few days of focusing on grace, I would move to responding to frustrating situations with peace or love, and so on and so forth.

The Science: Disrupt & Interrupt Your Thought Patterns

Setting intentions is very similar to the previous topic of journaling within the realm of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. When you acknowledge the feelings that have led to a state of disrupt or incongruence, you are focusing on the thought patterns you can change within yourself to pull yourself out of dysregulation instead of focusing on the things keeping you in this dysregulated state that you often have no power over (such as others’ intentions, actions, or reactions). By focusing that energy inward, we can more thoroughly address what triggers those feelings and attack them one at a time. For instance, my feelings of frustration were not completely wiped out by showing grace. In fact, I still get frustrated, but that frustration no longer leaves me feeling hopeless. Because I know that it is okay to feel frustrated and that I am justified in my frustration, I have been able to address that frustration with grace, love, patience, empathy, and acceptance. I no longer feel powerless because I am not focusing on something I can’t control.

In Cognitive Therapy, the first goal is to recognize the patterns in our thinking. From there, the goal becomes to interrupt the patterns and replace the unproductive thoughts with productive ones. Likewise, setting intentions starts with us recognizing patterns in our behavior caused by problematic thinking. The next step is to focus our energy inward and decide that we are no longer okay with feeling helpless, frustrated, empty, etc. After we have made that decision, we are empowered to fight those feelings with ones of confidence, stability, and growth. Setting intentions, weekly, daily, hourly, can reduce the feelings that are so intent on knocking us down!

It’s like that saying, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you feel about it. If you can’t change the way you feel, try setting an intention!

Ashley Woodford